Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'science'

: Vaccination: Just Do It

vintage poster encouraging polio vaccination for children
I’m going to talk about vaccinations from the point of view of a person who’s older than most of the current vaccines, and what the changes have been like in my life.

My Age, In Practical Terms

If you read up on all of those, a handful of vaccination shots mean we miss the opportunity to suffer a whole lot of misery, and a bunch of truly smart and amazing people have been working hard ensuring that you, me, and that other person over there have the best chances at health possible.
I still remember spending a week absolutely miserable with chicken pox. A few years ago, I had a reoccurrence in the form of shingles. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

One of My Earliest Childhood Memories

I remember going to CalTech’s park areas where I got my Salk vaccination for polio around about 1963. I was three or four years old.
You don’t see a lot of people with polio any more, for two good reasons: 1) thanks to Salk, it was eradicated in 1968, 2) the people who did have visible polio symptoms are less numerous as a percentage of the population.
Polio’s a horrific disease that not only killed and crippled people in droves, it has the unfortunate habit of cropping up again decades later. It was not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to polio back when I was a kid. (Granted, it was also not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to injuries in WW2, the Korean War, or Vietnam. Or even WW1.)

I Hated Shots As a Child

Despite being a child of scientists, I absolutely hated getting shots. They terrified me.
I remember hiding under my doctor’s desk in his office, and there were many tears associated with getting shots. But you know what? My parents had not only my best interests at heart, but those of the rest of society, too. Apart from fear, there was no good reason not to get my vaccinations.
When I was in early adulthood, it changed. I was okay getting shots if I saw the shot. Now I can look or not look, it doesn’t bother me either way, because I know the purpose of a shot is to kick the ass of something.
I’ve generally stayed on top of my boosters since then.

Have There Been Problems?

There is in fact a rather horrifying article about the Salk vaccine and SV40 over on SFGate.
Some of the early attempts at vaccines were like trying to tune a car engine with a plastic fork. There wasn’t any real way to ensure non-contamination until we got modern tools for sequencing, replicating, and analyzing DNA.

Penn and Teller on Vaccinations

Short but to the point, this is an awesome pro-vaccination video that neatly addresses the “vaccines cause autism” hype.

Vaccination Schedules

Here is a list of vaccination schedules by country.
Note that there are vaccines other than the flu vaccine that you should get, or get a booster of, as an adult.
If it’s helpful, the CDC has some tips on keeping (and locating) adult vaccination records.

: Vatican Flag on the Moon

As we were wandering through the Vatican museums the other day, Rick saw this small display. It has the Vatican flag, a small sphere with a few specks of rock, and the following inscription:

Presented to the people of the Vatican City by Richard Nixon President of the United States of America This flag of your state was carried to the Moon and back by Apollo 11, and this fragment of the Moon’s surface was brought to the Earth by the crew of that first manned lunar landing.

I think that’s the first time I’ve seen anything Moon-mission-related outside a science museum.

: Deirdre's Wheat Belly Rant

[![Wheat field, photo by Viktor Hanacek.](/images/2014/09/IMG_9851_edited-700x466.jpg)](/images/2014/09/IMG_9851_edited.jpg)Wheat field, photo by [Viktor Hanacek](

Over the last two months, half a dozen people that I’d spoken with for about fifteen minutes total decided to recommend a book to me: Wheat Belly. They recommended it for two reasons, I’m sure: one, they each knew I was celiac or on a gluten-free diet. Two, they knew I was fat.
The first time someone mentioned it, I downloaded and skimmed the sample of the book. To me, it looked like the typical diet book, full of pseudoscientific claims in addition to some genuine ones. ## On Recommending This Book to a Celicac

Here’s what I’ve wanted to say to everyone who’s recommended this book to a celiac:
Do you think a celiac, of all people, has no clue how dangerous wheat can be?
Did you know that my intestines bleed when I accidentally eat a sandwich made with regular bread? That a smaller dose can land me in bed with three days of diarrhea and misery? Or that about half a crouton’s worth can cause me to run a fever for a couple of days? That my thyroid’s mostly shut down (a common co-morbidity) and is now sixteen times normal size? That my supposed “wheat belly” is actually a medication and thyroid side effect?
Did you know that I know people who’ve needed 16 to 26 units of blood (over a course of one to two years) after their diagnosis? That I know people who’ve wound up in the ICU because of celiac-induced anemia?
That I know people who were losing so much weight they could have died?
That I know someone who was being evaluated for a heart transplant before they figured out she had a wheat allergy? (Not celiac, a true allergy.)
Did you know that I have met people who get seizures from small amounts of wheat?
It dissolves our intestines. How much worse could it be, really? I don’t really know of any other analogous food issue.

On Recommending it as a Diet Book

Look, there are some things I agree with: less sugar, more traditional foods, there are good fats. Except, of course, this diet cuts out swaths of foods that aren’t bad for you. Buckwheat, to take an example, isn’t a grain, and is one of the best vegetarian complete proteins. Why limit it?
But I’m not open to villifying wheat for the 95% of you for whom it does no apparent damage. I do sincerely thank all of you gluten free people for making more food options available to me, but I’ve always stated: if it doesn’t make you feel better or doesn’t improve your medical numbers, I’m not convinced it’s worth the bother.
I’m not convinced that the increase in celiac disease expression is related to eating newer forms of wheat, as claimed in the book. If that increase is related to a single food, it may also be corn or soy. Or, you know, the shift from butter to margarine around WWII. It could be canola oil. It could be that we’re no longer eating much liver. Or lamb. It could be a different answer for different populations.
Other people have done takedowns of the book.

The Only Diet Advice I’ve Ever Heard That’s Worth Following

The first is from Michael Pollan:

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.

The second is one I heard from a friend who’s Japanese, though I’ve never heard it from another Japanese person:

Thirty different foods a day.
One hundred different foods a week.

No, I don’t mean ingredients. I mean foods. Spices count.
It’s an interesting goal.
But avoiding buckwheat, which isn’t a grain, because industrial wheat may be bad for you? That’s crazy talk.
Also, because I apparently have to say this: recommending a diet book to a fat person you have just met and barely know is a dick move.

: A Wonderful Post About Chronic Illness

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Health Care (Until I Got Sick)

[B]ut people suffering from the condition often spend years shuffling painfully between baffled specialists before getting our necks mercifully slashed open like an Opposite Day episode of Dexter.
Or you’ll visit six different psychiatrists who all fail to cure your crippling depression, because none of them ever thought to test to see if it was caused by an asshole thyroid.

Speaking as someone with a differently-assholish thyroid? This. So much this. Especially since I’ve been advised that I’m going to have to do the Opposite Day Dexter thing at some point in the fairly near future.
So, do you happen to know one thing that can show a thyroid problem? (Lack of it doesn’t mean there is one.) Thin or disappearing eyebrows, especially the outer third. I used an eyebrow pencil for this photo shoot, not that you can tell.
I heard someone say they didn’t know spoon theory recently, so here’s a link to that post also.

: Washing Hands in Hot Water Doesn't Help

Two pull quotes from this National Geographic article by Brian Clark Howard

Carrico said, “It’s certainly true that heat kills bacteria, but if you were going to use hot water to kill them it would have to be way too hot for you to tolerate.”
In fact, she noted that hot water can often have an adverse effect on hygiene. “Warmer water can irritate the skin and affect the protective layer on the outside, which can cause it to be less resistant to bacteria,” said Carrico.

I always knew the climate change aspects of using a lot of hot water (especially waiting for it to heat up), but never really thought about the rest.
I’m still going to take showers in warmer water though.

: Xeni Jardin on Pinktober

I’ve collected some of Xeni Jardin’s tweets over the last couple of weeks about Pinktober and breast cancer. Everything below this sentence are her words. I thought they needed a more findable home.
I might write about why Pinktober is dumb, a bummer, and insulting, but I might not. It’s the job of people who don’t have the disease. (link)
Because they’re the ones marketing, exploiting, cashing in, rolling around in all the maudlin pinkness. Not us. (link)
Pinktober is gross & dehumanizing for breast cancer patients. I’m not Jewish, but think of it this way: sticking a smiley face on Auschwitz. (link)
Pinktober doesn’t even square with science. Breast Cancer isn’t “boobies disease,” it’s mutant cells that happen to amass in that area. (link)
Breast cancer isn’t even one disease. Ask an oncologist. 16? 17? 20? Dozens of diseases? Hundreds? And it metastasizes, travels far. (link)
Reject Pinktober. Use the month to learn about people living with metastatic breast cancer, and find ways to help them. Fund more science. (link)
Use Pinktober to figure why quacks like Burzynski legally allowed to continue to kill breast cancer pts. Confront non-science-based frauds. (link)
Use Pinktober to figure out why poor breast (& other) cancer pts must choose between food & chemo in America. Demand a more humane system. (link)
Many women with breast cancer go bankrupt in America, due to cost of treatment or job loss. Not one dime of Pink profit until that stops. (link)

The correct answer to “Did you beat it?” is, “breast cancer is not a Michael Jackson song.” (link)

Just FYI, I know women w/& without insurance too broke to afford breast cancer screening, care after diagnosis, or food/shelter during tx. (link)

Spent some time with a childhood friend this week who, like me, had/has breast cancer. She was/is uninsured. Is she in remission? Who knows. (link)
How often do you go for checkups, blood tests, scans with your oncologist, I asked. “I kind of don’t,” she said. “I don’t have insurance.” (link)
She is single, a creative freelancer type, a long respected career. But no insurance, and lots of medical debt, so poor/no monitoring. (link)
She could have mets, or a new secondary cancer, and not know it. Lack of insurance means more of us die, or live lives you would not want. (link)
Odds of this fellow breast cancer survivor finding an insurance policy she can afford, with her “pre-existing,” grim now. This must change. (link)

A thing I love about Pinktober: listicles/PSAs implying you can prevent breast cancer by doing “the right things.” The Great Kale Swindle. (link)
This “people who are obese/sedentary/smokers/meat eaters/whatever-ers get it” myth made me believe I couldn’t possibly have breast cancer. (link)
I love most that we’re able to take a horrible, disfiguring, lethal disease and turn it into shopping. Because Yay shoppings. Pinktober! (link)

It’s time people knew the truth. I got breast cancer from reading Internet comments. Plz RT 2 save lives! #BreastCancerAwareness #pinktober (link)

: My Kind of Failure Analysis

Interesting commentary from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on the recent Model S Fire.
The last paragraph of Elon’s is awesome.

: Earth: Time Lapse from the ISS

Great music (I recommend headphones), and if you have the bandwidth, do it high def and full screen.


Link to BoingBoing notes.
Only place I could definitively identify from this video without slowing it down was the Sea of Cortez, with Baja California closer to the center.
Sea of Cortez from teh ISS

: Women's Iron Deficiencies Frequently Misdiagnosed

It’s not about that female thing, or at least rarely so.
86% of the time when it was diagnosed as menstrual bleeding, the cause of the anemia was actually gastrointestinal bleeding.
Note that taking iron supplements doesn’t cure your gastrointestinal lining; it’s a bandaid for the wrong problem.
Also, if you’re low on ferritin (iron transport protein), you can actually directly supplement it, which is what I do. (For vegetarians and vegans, sorry, it’s an animal protein, so there is no animal-free option for that particular supplement.)